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June 23, 2022 6:42 PM, EDT

House Funding Panel Approves Fiscal 2023 Transportation Bill

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A House panel on June 23 approved legislation that would fund operations at the U.S. Department of Transportation for fiscal 2023.

With approval in the transportation appropriations subcommittee, the bill advanced to the House Appropriations Committee.

The hearing with the chamber’s funding leaders is scheduled for June 30. House Democratic leaders have expressed interest in passing the transportation legislation prior to the congressional August recess.

Specifically, the fiscal 2023 legislation would provide the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration $367.5 million for the agency’s safety operations and programs, and $506.1 million for its safety grants division. For fiscal 2023, the White House is proposing Congress approve similar funding levels for FMCSA.

Overall, the House bill would dedicate $61.3 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $18.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration, $17.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, $3.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration and $1.2 billion for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, it would dedicate $987 million for the Maritime Administration, per a summary the subcommittee provided.

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Programs related to climate change and electric vehicles, some of which were approved by the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), would be backed by the appropriations bill. The IIJA is sometimes referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law.

As part of the legislation, a federal grant program about infrastructure projects of regional significance would receive $775 million. The grants, known as the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE), are meant to assist cities and state agencies with connectivity efforts. Over the years, the grants have been essential for the completion of bridges and major freight corridors as a way of enhancing economic competitiveness.

“The RAISE program helps communities large and small fix and modernize their infrastructure,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this year. “Thanks to the president’s bipartisan infrastructure law, we can support more projects than ever and help make our transportation system safer, more accessible and more sustainable for people across the country.”

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a senior member of the panel, emphasized provisions in the legislation directed at transit projects, severe weather resilience programs and safety operations.

“The bill we have before us today represents our commitment to the American people,” Quigley said. “The funding provided would improve transportation safety.”

Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman David Price issued a statement prior to the hearing.

Rep. David Price

Price

“This year’s [Transportation and Housing and Urban Development] bill builds upon the successes of President [Joe] Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, providing critical funding to augment this once-in-a-generation investment,” the North Carolina Democrat said. “It provides increased funding for rental assistance, expands housing vouchers, expands housing opportunities for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and includes new investments for manufactured housing.”

Most Republicans, meanwhile, criticized the funding levels proposed in the House legislation. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), the appropriations subpanel’s ranking member, announced his opposition to the legislation in its current form.

“We all know that these bills were written under — not just this bill, all of the appropriations bills — were written under frankly an unrealistic top line decided unilaterally by the [congressional Democratic] majority.”

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, echoed her GOP colleague’s viewpoint.

Texas Rep. Kay Granger

Granger

“American families are really struggling to make ends meet due to record high inflation, and we have to find ways to rein in government spending so we don’t make the problem worse.”

Republicans are expected to offer amendments to the legislation during the full committee consideration of the bill.

Democratic senators, governing in the majority, have endorsed the president’s budget request. However, they have not scheduled votes on their fiscal 2023 legislation. During a hearing in May, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the transportation appropriations subcommittee chairman, emphasized sustainability and resilience proposals included in the president’s request to Congress. “I’m glad to see a sustained focus on addressing climate change,” Schatz said May 10.

Congressional funding leaders are tasked with reaching an agreement on appropriations bills prior to the start of the new fiscal year. Funding authority for the fiscal year expires at the end of September. The IIJA was enacted Nov. 15.

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